Our Interview with Susan Bender: Listen here!

At Matti D, connection is at the heart of everything we do. We cherish the bonds we form with each other, with our clients, and with our talented designers. Recently, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Susan Bender, one of the exceptional designers who we proudly carry. Renowned for her innovative use of stretched leather, in tailored designs, and her stunning cuts, Susan is a true mastermind in her craft.

Here is our interview with the extraordinary Susan Bender.

YMANI: I'm Ymani. You look beautiful today. 

SUSAN BENDER: Thank you. So do you. 

YMANI: I appreciate that. First question that I have for you today is, I've read in your bio on your website that your favorite medium to work with is leather for your designs. You work incredibly well with this texture. I noticed how buttery it is, I noticed how it drapes so beautifully that it feels like it was made for and tailored to our clients, which is incredible to see, but it was the first choice in your venture in the garment district after working in the corporate world.

So why leather? Why choose such a versatile fabric? 

SUSAN BENDER: Leather is so multifaceted. It can be sporty. It can be elegant, but mostly, I think it's timeless. And, while other luxury designers might add a few pieces of leather into their collections during the appropriate seasons; you have to really like what they offer to buy a new piece of, you know, a new leather item for a season. And I felt like there really weren't any luxury designers who were fully focused on leather. And it's so beautiful and so versatile, like you said.

I felt like I really could create pieces that women could wear often, in different ways, accessorizing to make it their own, and really have it forever. And they could always reach back into their closet and wear it differently, you know, as, you know, as they need it, want it. 

YMANI: That's so true because that is a takeaway that I get a lot from clients is exactly what you said. And I love that I'm able to see that statement within how women are feeling. So I love to see that through your mission statement, how you feel about fabrics, how you want women to feel, even though we're just looking at your garment, they feel exactly that.

So that is really beautiful that you're able to even sew in those words into a garment so that they truly feel and embody that. 

SUSAN BENDER: Thank you. 

YMANI: What was the first leather garment you have ever created? 

SUSAN BENDER: So many, many years ago, when I got into this business, the first thing I, you know, it's funny. I designed a bustier. Okay? And I had a very hard time getting a pattern maker to be interested in what I was doing because I was an unknown. This one pattern maker who was very well known in New York, who worked with a lot of, you know, well known designers.

I'm not gonna list them. I called her to ask her to work with me, and she said, well, explain to me what you're doing. And I said, well, I'm making leather pieces. They feel a little bit like lingerie, but they're not vulgar. And she said, I'm down. I'm down.

And so we made a bustier and I wore that garment so many different ways. It really is my trademark that you should be able to wear what I do forever in many ways, and I wore it with a t- shirt underneath that, I wore it with a blouse underneath it, I wore it with a tank top or with nothing, just the bustier.

And each time, it was like a new piece for me, and I loved that. And one day, I actually wore it into Bergdorf Goodman, and the salesperson in YSL stopped me and said, how can I get that top that you're wearing? And I just knew I was on the right track. So that's how I started.

YMANI: That's really creative to choose such an intricate design. Although it's a bustier, I feel like that is definitely difficult to kind of create and pull together. So I admire that that was your first piece. That's really cool.

SUSAN BENDER: Thank you. It was a great piece. It still is. I mean, it, you know, I'm older now, so I love it, but I definitely don't wear it without anything underneath it at this point. Now, you know, it's a layer.

It's but it's a great layer, and I can still make it work with what is going on in fashion right now. So that's pretty great. 

YMANI: And I will say -  I'm sorry - this isn't a part of the questions, I do appreciate how your leathers are so thin that you are able to layer. That's what I love about it.

SUSAN BENDER: Okay. So, you know, while I was working in this medium I was introduced to stretch leather. I'd heard about it. It was in Europe, but it really wasn't very big in the United States yet. Really, it was very hard to come by unless you purchased something from a European designer, and it wouldn't be a mainstream European designer. So in any case, I learned about it, and I got hold of it. It was very, very expensive because it's a very intricate process to make the leather stretchable.

You know, the leather has to be shrunk to match a fabric that stretches, and they are then bonded. And all of a sudden, this big piece of leather is now a much smaller piece of leather, And it makes a difference. You're working with raw materials and it was expensive and I got a hold of it and made a jacket. And I sold that jacket so well because people felt like it was weightless and could use it for coverage, and they never had to take it off. 

So I got to myself at that point, like, I know it's more expensive, but this is really the future. What a store told me, one of the reasons she did so well when I first started with my collection was that no one ever felt like they had to take the jacket off because it wasn't, it was weightless. 

YMANI: That's the truth. Because whenever I have clients come and try it on, they'll say, oh, I already have a leather jacket, but neglect to take it off. So wearing it as they're talking about the leather jacket they already have and then they'll check out and they're like, Oh, I'm still wearing it. You know what? I'll take it. And I'm like, I knew you were going to take it. It's truly not like anything else.

I appreciate you diving into that search for that stretch leather, because I love that you were able to kind of look outside of what is the norm here in America and find your own stretch leather based on your own mission statement of what you wanted for women. So that's really incredible. That's cool. 

And then the next question that I have for you is when looking at your garments, your fits and cuts are truly one of a kind. Your detailing from leathers to silks all have that Susan Bender's signature flare, and it's that flare of femininity, of structure.

So when cultivating such a signature, who or what were your design influences? 

SUSAN BENDER: Okay. I just have to say this because honestly, it was a really big inspiration for me. While my designs don't reflect this at all, I am a huge fan of Rick Owens, and I wear that often. And I just love what he does. And so I really have to say that first because I think about, you know, how he functions and he's really an amazing example of someone I wish I could be like. 

But I have to say and I'm older than you, so this is not gonna be something that's as familiar to you as to me. Back in the early 2000, Carine Roitfeld, who was the editor of French Vogue, but before that was more of a stylist, she worked with Tom Ford on his collection for Gucci, and that really would to me, was the ultimate of what I want like, where I wanted to go. It was what they did was refined but sexy.

And I thought it would make women feel really confident to wear clothes like that. And when I'm designing, that's what I'm thinking about. How can I remain refined? A little sex appeal and allow women to feel really confident in what they're wearing and feel good about themselves both with comfort and style.

YMANI: I'm gonna have to look at that line because I appreciate that you were saying everything about femininity. You marked all of the points. And I think that that's really sweet that that's something that you always keep in mind is just that little sex appeal. Because I do see it.

SUSAN BENDER: Just a little bit. You know? And it's because it makes you feel good. Right? It doesn't have to be vulgar.

YMANI: And then so do you personally wear your own designs often? 

SUSAN BENDER: Oh my god. Of course, I do. Yes. I do. I'm wearing something of my own right now. This was a piece for Fall ‘24.

So, you know, little ahead of the curve at the moment because you know, no one has this yet. But, you know, my everyday style is really one of my jackets.

It goes either way. I blend my clothes that I make into whatever is really super current in the fashion scene. So while I like to, obviously, I'm current, but there are certain things that really don't work as well in leather as if they do in other fabrications. So I might wear a really full flare but a full leg pair of jeans with a little cropped jacket, or a t- shirt or a tank or something.

My zipper pants are ones I love wearing with a blazer and a pair of western boots, and that's just how I dress every day. And it's like a fashion show when I come to work. Everybody evaluates what I'm wearing. 

YMANI: Oh, that's I can only imagine you just stand in the doorway like, okay, guys. So let's talk about it. And I'm excited for that design. I'm excited for us to carry that because it looks beautiful on you. 

SUSAN BENDER: It's [motioning to the jacket she wears] really great actually, this is non-stretch, but it's so light. I couldn't resist. I just felt like even though my preferred medium is stretch leather, but sometimes I do regular leather now too. And this leather was just so beautiful to me, and I just whatever - I went for it. 

YMANI: But I could see how comfortable you are in it. That's what I love about it. Like, I could see that you're able to fully – your arms, you're able to sit back. You're able to do everything. 

SUSAN BENDER: Yeah. Completely. And if I want to cinch it, I just go like this and I get, you know, there's a lot you can do with it. Yeah. 

YMANI: Well, your mind is beautiful. I love seeing your designs. Truly. And then we have 2 more questions left. Our 4th question is, tell me about your personal style, which you kind of did just now, which I appreciate.

SUSAN BENDER: I kind of did. Yes. 

I was gonna tell you about my personal style, which is fully affected by the fact that I work in New York City in a factory, but I still like to get dressed. I can't help it. 

I could be some days, I am  chief packer when we're shipping. Or I'm the 1st person to try something on just to see if I even like the way it looks. So I have to be ready to do that. So I often have on a t- shirt and a tank top or tank top and one of my jackets, that's just, the way it goes. 

YMANI: And then to continue that question is what makes you feel empowered when you style yourself? 

SUSAN BENDER: I think I just like when something fits really well. I think that's the main thing. It's about how it fits and how it feels on the body. Fit for me is the most important thing of all. And everything I make goes through so many fittings because I just feel like, you know, you look neater, you feel better, and women want clothes that fit them and look great. 

YMANI: Yes. I was gonna say it is hard to find because I am a size 14, so it's hard for me to find a leather jacket that does fit well with my curves. But when I tried on the jacket - it was in your basic moto jacket - I felt like you could see my curves. I felt like you could see the beautiful shape of my arms. I felt like my neck was accentuated. Like, I just felt good. And it was just that little sex appeal that made me feel confident in the fact that I am a curvier woman. And so it was really beautiful to see a fabric like that on me and not have it feel too bulky. 

SUSAN BENDER: I feel like everybody should, I mean, I guess it's all in your own, you know, how you feel, but I love that you can celebrate curves. That's what I do. I celebrate that, and I'm a little curvy too. And sometimes the pieces look great on others, like my model is not quite as curvy, and she looks great in these clothes too. So I think it's for all women, really. And with the stretch, it really just allows more women to wear things like this. 

YMANI: Yeah. Love that. And then we are on our final question. Thank you for sticking through this. So what do you hope to achieve in the future with your brand?

And when asked this question in the past before your brand began, do you feel like you achieved what you had hoped you would? 

SUSAN BENDER: Definitely. So the goal for me was to make things that people felt like they obviously loved. And things that they would wear often and forever.

I know that that has occurred because I can't tell you how many people I have met over the years who have said, I still wear the first piece I ever bought from you, and I bought it again in other colors, or I always look to see what you're doing that's new. Or I often hear I have a collection of Susan Bender pieces, and I'm still aware of them. And that makes me so happy because that's the point that I wanted them to be timeless. I wanted to make things that were timeless.

I wanted to make things that people loved. I want to make things that people felt like they could just wear in their own way and really not pieces that were ever one time wears. That they were definitely meant to be worn in different ways. I used to say that, like, the bustier, I would say to my friends, you could wear this 3 times during the week. I'll just style it differently, and it's okay.

We should all strive to live like that. It's like, what a great thing to have a few amazing things that you can just wear in your own way. 

YMANI: And I definitely do see that whenever I see my clients in styling them in your pieces, okay, well, I have my Susan Bender jacket, so what other garments can we get to kind of work around that? I love that your pieces have become such a staple of everybody's wardrobe. I admire that. And that's beautiful. 

SUSAN BENDER: Thank you. 

YMANI: You're so welcome. And my dear, that is all of the questions that I have for you today.

I wanted to say that I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to be here today to do this interview, to speak with me, to share your brand, to share your heart. I really loved hearing everything that you had to say, and I did connect with your words as a woman. And I just wanted to say that I appreciate all of the effort that you put into your designs And I love the way you make my clients feel. I love the way you made me feel when I tried on your jacket. I just love what you do and to keep doing what you're doing because you're doing a beautiful job at it.

SUSAN BENDER: Thanks, Ymani. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. 


As you can see, Susan Bender is an extraordinary designer whose designs show innovation and elegance. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for craftsmanship, she consistently delivers breathtaking designs that captivate and inspire. We are truly honored to feature Susan Bender's remarkable designs, and we celebrate her unique contribution to the beautiful world of fashion.

Thank you so much for tuning in and celebrating the beautiful world of Susan Bender with me.